Apple announced Monday an improved version of its Siri voice-control software is coming to the new iPad, which has been shipping since March. The decision creates a wider gulf, features-wise, between the iPad 2 and the "new" (3rd-generation) model, which are priced $100 apart at the low-end (16GB, Wi-Fi).
Assuming Apple has corrected many of the well-publicized glitches that plagued the "beta" version of Siri, which debuted on the iPhone 4S, the charm of voice commands may help sway customers toward the new iPad, which starts at $499.
Currently, the 3rd-gen iPad's most compelling feature is its Retina display with 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution. The iPad 2, which starts at $399, has a 1024-by-768 display. The new iPad has a better rear-facing camera and a faster graphics engine too. (Here's a spec comparison between the new iPad vs. the iPad 2.)
The additional of Siri could spur sales of cellular-enabled iPads as well. Recent studies show that tablet owners prefer Wi-Fi-only slates over those with cellular connections. The primary reason is financial: When you're already paying a pricey cellular bill for a smartphone, you don't want to add a second data plan for a tablet.
A Siri-enabled iPad could get slates out of the house (or Starbucks and other Wi-Fi zones) more often, however, particularly if Siri's tight integration with Apple's new mapping features--as outlined in Monday's demo at WWDC 2010--work as advertised. Given Siri's past problems, however, its performance as a roadworthy assistant remains to be seen.